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"So I guess this is where I'm supposed to introduce myself. I'm a Canadian male teaching ESL in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This will be my second stint teaching ESL, only this time I'll be teaching at a High School, using my actual teaching experience to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me - no question's too small. Take care, and enjoy the ride."

Other Blogs of Note

  • Student in Korea
  • Seoul Man
  • The Daily Kimchi
  • Surviving South Korea
  • Books I'm Reading

  • "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" by Niall Ferguson
  • "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
  • "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington
  • "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth" by Benjamin M Friedman
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  • Here's an odd one... Monday, June 25, 2007 |

    So, I just found out this afternoon that artificial hair extensions are not allowed at my school. One girl just got in big big trouble when it was discovered that she was wearing artificial hair extensions....
    Now, call me strange, but i'll leave the argument about why you would even use artificial extensions out of the debate....but banning them from middle schools?
    Another curious rule that somewhat makes Korean middle schools stand out....

    arranged marriages and other oddities... Saturday, June 23, 2007 |

    So, for those of you who read this regularly, you'll remember the post about arranged marriages. During that marriage, she was my friend, Ms. Sun, was lucky enough to have known her future husband when she was a child; it was her parents who got together with the other parents to decide that they should both get married, in both their children's best interests, because, well, these parents want their kids married, and they want grandkids.
    Skip forward to yesterday, my Friday. For some time now, I've been teaching an English class for teachers who wish to improve their speaking skills; its by far the best way for me to end my week. For the past month or so, one of the teachers, one of the only remaining single Korean teachers in my school, has been absent. She always apologizes for missing, but, until Friday, she had never told me why she was missing the class (even though its optional). She's getting married; next month, July 7, 2007. Her parents decided it was time for her to move out from the house (she's the youngest unmarried daughter of "marrying age") and her parents basically gave her an ultimatum. She clearly doesn't want to get married; she's only known the man for less than two months.
    And while I feel for her, and the fact that she compared getting married to being locked up, what was slightly more intriguing to me was the date she's getting married; 7,7, 07 - considered a lucky day for marriages, and a weekend to boot. She's highly superstitious, and one of the only reasons she's getting married is because, if my guess is correct (it was partially explained in rapid-Korean) she's hoping that she'll be happy in this marriage (even though she doesn't want to get married) if she marries on a "lucky" day. I for one hope that she is happy, because she's a very carefree woman, who loves her independance, and the freedom that it gives her. She told me earlier in the year when I first came that she doesn't want to ever get married; she's perfectly content, and she doesn't want children. In that regard, I feel sad for her, even though I told her that I'm happy for her....
    This superstitious date however brought to mind just how superstitious the non-Religious population of Korea actually is. I'm sure that the religious population is also very superstitious, they would just never talk about it, because, well, its just not good religion to believe in God, and also good-luck charms, fortune tellers, and exorcists that work.
    Just a few things that might make you shake your head in amazement.
    One of my old work supervisors who overlooked the preschool teachers moved from her successful high-paying job (where she did nothing but complain and take credit for other people's work) abruptly quit her job after attending a very expensive fortune teller's personal reading, and finding out that, unless she quit her job and moved to a neighbourhood on the opposite side of the city, in a specific neighbourhood, her husband would die within the year. Believing the fortune teller to be telling the truth because she paid a lot of money for the reading, within one month, she had uprooted her whole family, and moved across the city, into a new apartment complex in the neighbourhood where her fortune teller suggested. No word on whether her husband is alive or not....
    Perhaps stranger is concerning my old supervisor. She's normally not very superstitious, however, a rash of family illnesses in her family, where the doctors did not know the cause of their pain (after countless doctors, operations, and still pain) led her to a number of exorcists. My supervisor was not doing it for her family, but for herself; she was worried that the mysterious ilness would also be in her, and she didn't want that. The first exorcist she had occured in a remote area outside of the city, where after the exorcism was performed on her, her sister stopped complaining of her pain (for a week, after which it resumed). The second exorcist performer charged her a substantial amount of money, and after the ceremony, my supervisor was instructed to buy a special sharpened sword, and place it under her bed; and not move it for as long as she didn't want the illness. Being scared that the sword would inflict injury on her son, she removed the sword, and had a third exorcism performed. No word on the cost, but my friend working at the same institute has been kind enough to inform me that lately she's been on edge, and snapping at people more than normal....
    Just a few things that might make you think about how superstitious things are in your own country....
    take care, and God bless,

    time to play catch up... Thursday, June 21, 2007 |

    So, its been close to a month since I last updated. True to form, I don't feel the slightest guilty - so if you were expecting an apology, you came to the wrong place. However, since then, I've been quite busy. I've been to Tokyo on a whirlwind weekend trip that saw me leave Seoul at 3am on a Saturday morning, and arrive back in Seoul on the following Monday at 4am, to start teaching at 8am that same day (more on this later). I've also been busy with a bit of a predicament that's come up that will possibly involve another trip to the hospital (not anymore on this later). I've also been working on preparing myself for taking an online University course so that I can be certified to teach High School English, along with a host of other things I've been working on clearing up at home -that, and trying to live a normal life while playing squash twice a week, not melting in the 30 plus Celsius temperatures.
    There, that's my rant.
    So, today's the start of the rainy season, or, as some people describe it; normal life. It's somewhat comical that they've "pinpointed" the exact date that this "season" starts - mainly because today it starts raining, and we're expecting rain on the weekend as well..we could have bright sunshine starting Monday, but "TODAY" is the official kickoff to the rainy season. 'Bout time...I was getting anxious waiting for it to finally start. Here's to hoping we don't have the same flash-flooding that some of the lower lying regions were afflicted with last year.

    So, side topic here...for anyone looking for new music, if you haven't heard of a band called "Mumm-Ra" then check them out. Their album is entitled "These Things Move in Three's", and its really quite good. You've probably heard of their song called "She's Got You High" - if you've heard of them, get the rest of the album; definitely worth the ten dollars online with Itunes.

    So two weekends ago, I went on a trip to Tokyo with five good friends of mine, all Korean. It was really interesting to spend a short time in a city that's bigger than Seoul population wise, and to realize some of the good aspects of Tokyo over Seoul, and vice versa. For one, Tokyo is not the neon-wasteland that is Seoul- go anywhere in Seoul, any street corner, and you'll see every square centimeter covered in neon signage and letters; quite ugly if you ask me. Tokyo's much cleaner, and the lack of signage makes for a much more beautiful scenery, especially at night.
    The other beautiful factor where Tokyo wins hands down over Seoul is in skyline...Seoul has just over 13 million people - however, you think they've got more, because everywhere you look, all you see are ugly-looking identical apartments littering the city-scape. Tokyo's got apartments located all over the place, and nearly none of them look the same. Sure, I've seen much more of Seoul than Tokyo, however, we rode the subway a lot, and I don't think I'm far off.
    The one area where Seoul wins hand over fist in the city battle is in public transportation - for us travellers, I've never seen something more complicated than the Tokyo subway network. I'm sure if I'd spent more time figuring it out, then I'd be okay. However, because separate companies each own different subway lines in Tokyo, transferring lines is a capital "B" with an itch...a BIG itch (if you get my drift). For those living, its a piece of cake; for tourists, a different story. It was funny though, because its only in Japanese or English...for once, I was helpful in travelling, because my English was substantially better than my friends, and for once, their Korean couldn't help them travelling.
    Last thing in this far-too-long update is that I'll be taking an online University course during the following six weeks. It's somewhat nostalgic to be "going back to school" even though I'll be planted to my apartments at night trying to complete a regular semester course in only six weeks....."cool".... Not my perfect idea of a summer break for when I'm doing summer "English Camp" at school, but I guess somewhat fitting. It should be interesting to see if I can keep up with both teaching and coursework at the same time. Nows the time when I'm grateful for teaching only conversation English, where I don't have marking or testing, say for the occasional extra hassle that comes with being the only foreigner in a public school. It's all good though.
    Well, there. If you're happy, do a jumping jack. I've updated. Have a great rest of your week, and don't work too hard
    God bless,